The purple-colored plant on the right was recently harvested by removing a two-foot layer of flower buds. After two weeks passed, it was harvested for a second time. This technique netted the grower 25 percent more harvest volume. (Christopher Valdes photo via "The Cannabis Encyclopedia")

Marijuana harvest tip: Taking more time can yield bigger rewards

Cannabis Cultivation Q&A: Extending the harvest period over a few weeks encourages the plant to develop its lower buds

Renowned grower Jorge Cervantes will answer readers’ questions and give advice on all things related to the cannabis plant. Got a question for Jorge? Email him at

Editor’s Note: Laws for cultivating cannabis vary from state to state and city to city — before germinating any seeds or planting any clones, take care to learn what your local laws are.


Question: What happens if I spread out the harvest on a plant by a couple of weeks? If I harvest the bigger buds/colas first, will that encourage the smaller side buds to get larger?

Answer: Great idea! You too have noticed that all flowers do not ripen equally. Convenience, schedule and weather are the main reasons people harvest entire plants at the same time. But if you have the space and the time to harvest over a two-week period, you will net more potent flower buds from the crop.

When analyzed in a laboratory, cannabis flowers at the top of the plant test more potent than flowers near the bottom of the plant. The main reasons lower buds are smaller with an overall lower cannabinoid profile include less light and hormonal balance within the plant. The good news is that you can work with these limitations to grow more cannabis that is more potent.

Outdoor growers in Northern California have been staggering the harvest on outdoor plants and achieving up to 40 percent more harvest volume. These exceptional 8-week-long harvests are contingent upon weather. You can see a video about it on my YouTube channel:

Indoors or in a greenhouse the same techniques can be practiced, but yield less. Artificial light intensity fades incredibly fast. For example, if a lamp provides 10,000 lumens a foot from the bulb, from 3 feet away only 2,000 lumens are available. This shows that flowers near the bottom of a 3-foot-tall plant do not receive as intense light as flowers located near the top. Couple the lack of light with shading, and lower buds suffer.

Hormones called auxins that are located in branches concentrate in branch tips, signaling plants to grow upward. When upper branches are severed, auxins send a message to the plant to produce stronger and bigger lower buds. Auxins move slowly and may take up to a week to send the full-speed-ahead signal.

Harvest upper buds that are at peak ripeness. Take plants down in layers, cutting off 6-8 inches of flower tops. Without knowing how big plants are it is difficult to advise exactly how much to take off, other than removing branch tips of flowers that are at peak ripeness.

For more information on extending harvest season and multiple harvests, see my YouTube channel.